Cancer, which is a combination of over a hundred diseases, is one of the most feared if not the most feared disease in the world today. It has become more of a household name rather than a disease; jealousy is like a cancer, bitterness is like a cancer and many more comparisons are common phrases. This however is not just a trend but it’s a reflection of the massive impact that cancer has had on the society. In the United States, cancer is the second most common cause of death and is only second to heart disease accounting for almost 25% of all deaths in the country. This is a very disturbing statistic taking to account that cancer takes time before it takes toll on the victim. This begs the question, what is cancer and more specifically what is breast cancer?

Cancer is an abnormal growth of cells which is caused by multiple changes in gene expression leading to dysregulated balance of cell proliferation and cell death (Ruddon, 2007). These cells can spread to other parts of the body through the blood and lymph systems. The formation of the abnormal cells emerges from the normal formation of new cells to replace worn out cells in the body. The cancer cells however do not get worn out but keep on multiplying as indicated in figure 1 and become more than what the body needs thus forming a tumor or a growth which maybe a lump or thickening of the skin (Peacock, 2002). The tumor can either be a benign tumor which once removed does not grow back or a malignant tumor which are actually cancer. Malignant tumors are composed by unusual cells which divide without control and can penetrate and destroy tissues around them (Peacock, 2002).  A malignant tumor that emerges from the breast is what is called breast cancer.

Figure 1

According to the American Cancer society, breast cancer can be defined as a malignant tumor that starts in the cells of the breast. Women are more vulnerable as compared to men though men can also get breast cancer too. Most breast cancers begin in the cells that line the ducts (small tubes that carry milk from the lobules to the nipples). There is also a possibility of cancer starting in cells of other tissues of the breast though this type of cancer is usually considered to be dangerous and is usually referred to as sarcomas and lymphomas. Once cancer develops in the breast it may spread to other parts of the body through the lymph system.

There are several types of cancer which affect women but some of them are more prevalent than others. Ductal Carcinoma in situ, Invasive ductal carcinoma, Invasive lobular carcinoma and Iflammatory breast cancer are the most common types of cancer. The Invasive ductal carcinoma is the most common type of invasive cancer, accounting for 8 out of 10 cases of invasive cancer.

The effects of cancer and the lack of cure for the disease when it reaches a certain level of growth has been an issue over the years. Though the statistics indicate a consistent decrease in the number of cancer incidences since 1989, the most significant drop was in 2002-2003 period where the number of incidences dropped by 7%. This was mostly attributed to the reduction in the use of menopausal hormone therapy (MHT). The number of new infections is however still high with American Cancer Society estimating that 232,670 new cases are expected to be diagnosed among women in 2014 and 2,360 new cases among men. The numbers of deaths are also still high with the total being 40,430 in both men and women. Moreover, the economic impact of the disease is still high with National Institute of Health (NIH) estimates settling at $86.6 billion in direct medical costs and $ 130.0 billion for indirect mortality costs totaling to $216.6 billion. This is a massive deflation to the economy which is still struggling to regain its lost glory.

This paper seeks to analyze Breast cancer from its first recorded incidents in the pre historic period and walk through the journey of the diagnosis and medical advancement concluding with a discussion on the responsibility of the society to the affected individuals.

Figure 2


Breast cancer dates back as far as the prehistoric and ancient world period. Though researchers believe that the impact of the disease was not as massive as it is today as it is a disease of maturity. Evidence of breast tumors can be traced as early as 3rd millennium BC where The Edwin Smith Surgical Papyrus is believed to contain the first reference to breast cancer (Winchester, 2006).

The Greek and Roman Period (460 BC – 475 AD) provide very vivid incidences of breast cancer. The early civilization of the Greeks provided the most complicated medicines and surgery of the time and it’s no surprise that they discovered the main symptoms and effects of breast cancer from diagnoses, development to death. Physicians of the period provided clear accounts of breast cancer and had various vocabularies to define the components. Karkinoma referred to a malignant growth, Scirrhous reffered to a particularly hard tumors while Cacoethes referred to a probable or early malignancy (Winchester, 2006). Roman Physician Aulus Cornelius Celsus and Hippocrates (460 – 375 BC) of the Corpus Hippocraticum were very influential in their contribution during the period.

The period of renaissance which was between sixteen to eighteenth century introduced mor

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